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India rebuffs Pakistan demand for driver's release
Thursday January 23, 2014 7:41 PM, IANS

As cross-border trade continues to be hit following the arrest of a Pakistani truck driver for allegedly ferrying 100 kg of brown sugar to India, the Indian government Thursday rebuffed Pakistan's demand for release of the driver and said he would have to face the "full force of Indian law".

External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin also said at a briefing here that the foreign ministries of the two countries are in consultations over the situation.

Trade across the Line of Control (LoC) was disrupted on Jan 17 after the arrest of Pakistani truck driver Muhammad Shafi and seizure of the vehicle by India.

Pakistani authorities in retaliation detained 27 drivers and their vehicles from India who had gone to Chakote near Muzaffarabad with trade consignments.

Pakistan also refused entry to 48 of its own trucks, demanding the Indian authorities release the arrested driver and allow the return of all 49 trucks that had come to the Salamabad trade centre in Baramulla district on Jan 17.

It also indicated that it would not allow the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote bus services to run till the impounded Pakistani truck and detained driver were released

Akbaruddin, to a question on the driver's detention, said: "I want to clarify that there is no modality that exempts a person alleged to be involved in a criminal activity from facing the full force of Indian law."

On Wednesday, Pakistan had summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gopal Baglay in Islamabad over the driver's detention and demanded his immediate release.

Pakistan had said in a demarche to India "that the detention is in violation of the agreed modalities and the spirit of the Cross-LoC (Line of Control) trade".

It demanded that the driver be "immediately released and the material evidence along with the investigation report be handed over for detailed probe and legal action" by the government of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

On Tuesday, India's ministry of external affairs summoned Pakistan's Acting High Commissioner Mansoor Ahmad in New Delhi in connection with the stoppage of trans-LoC trade and bus services.

The spokesperson also dismissed claims by a Pakistani official that the driver had diplomatic immunity, saying "there is no immunity that exempts a person in that category who is alleged to be involved in criminal activity and he will face full force of Indian law".

Akbaruddin said the spirit of the India-Pakistan confidence building measure on trans-LoC trade and travel is to bring humanitarian benefit to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

"It is surprising that these (trade and bus service) have been frozen by Pakistan and held hostage for the sake of a person indulging in drug trafficking."

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